Woodworking Workshop
Turning Bats on a Human-Powered Lathe in the Dominican Republic

Turners without Borders is an organization of woodturners created by the American Association of Woodturners. They have a number of initiatives designed to bring the good news of woodturning to farflung corners of the world. One of their newer members, Canadian shop teacher Scott Lewis, traveled to the Dominican Republic last year, to the town of Punta Cana, to build a lathe and teach turning at an education center there. TWB sponsored the trip and loaned him their tools.


The August 2015 issue of American Woodturner featured an article about Lewis’s trip. Here’s a quote:

In early 2014, Betty Scarpino introduced Scotty Lewis to the TWB program. Scotty is studying at Queens University in Canada, and for his Practicum, he gathered a team of three future teachers to develop a human-powered lathe made in wood. After extensive research and development they created a pedal-powered lathe that can be disassembled for transport. In March, two of the team traveled to the Dominican Republic to share their lathe and skills with the children at the Alpha Education Center. The TWB committee agreed that this project was a perfect fit for our program and we decided to sponsor Scotty and his team. We were able to supply tools from the AAW Tool Bank and some financial support. Scotty has agreed to make the plans for his lathe available for future TWB projects.

Lewis didn’t travel with the entire lathe. He only brought the plans, tools, hardware, and some critical parts like the bicycle wheel-based flywheel and chain drive system. Once in Punta Cana, he sourced locally-available wood and filled the flywheel frame with sand to weight it down properly.


As you can clearly see in the video, the teens and the adults readily took to it, making tops, bowls, and the all-hallowed baseball bat. The smiles and looks of pride on their faces speak for themselves. Knowing the profound importance of baseball to this country’s culture, one can only imagine what kids might do with the ability to peddle out their own “yard lumber.”

  • You can find out more about the various Turners Without Borders initiatives here.
  • The complete plans for Scott Lewis’s lathe (available in both English and metric) are available, for free, here [PDF].
  • David Heim, who created the plans from Lewis’s design, wrote a post about it on the SketchUp blog.

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn